Updated: Sep 30, 2018
By Dave Miller
Prayer walking in our city this morning we came across a picture worth a thousand words. There, right before us, was a home flying the Christian flag on one pole and a police stripe flag on the other proudly in the front yard. Completed with multiple locks, security cameras, warning signs, and closed blinds there stood a “christian” fortress designed let the world know to keep out because the Lord was in, lest the influence of the obviously liberal neighbors creep into the rooms inside. The irony of the moment struck me by the stark commentary it described on the effects of some of our current conservative christian teachings. Especially considering that just across the street was a home with an open front door, open blinds, large welcome sign in multiple languages accented with a marriage equality sticker and campaign signs for the upcoming election.
As one who has lived as an Oklahoman since birth, I understood the signals. Whether or not the residents fit this profile, I still recognized the fimiliar political messages mixed with the religious. I perceived the fort mentality and the fear of neighbor and the stand of protection and defiance. I have set through the sermons, testimonies, and prayer meetings. I have read the books, articles, facebook and twitter posts. I have heard the coffee and dinner conversations. And yet…
Jesus never played defense. Ever.
Jesus did NOT say I will build my church and Hades will not overpower our gates. Simon Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and Jesus responded, “...on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:16-18). In fact, the only times that the kingdom of God is described with gates is Revelation 21. The Apostle John wrote, “Its gates will never close by day because it will never be night there. They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.” The gates of Hades cannot keep the gospel out when the church moves in.
The posture of the kingdom is one of advance. We play offense with the One who said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go, make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-19a). However, kingdom authority does not carry the tools of power the world understands. Our tools in the kingdom are very different. The Way of the King is love of Truth and Truth in love that leads to Life. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Gospel is the Way of the Kingdom. Take a moment to consider the posture of Jesus, his disciples, and the Apostles.
Jesus’ comes in power.
Jesus is the light that overcomes the darkness:
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. - John 1:4-5
Jesus’ ministry always moved forward.
Early in Jesus ministry while they were in Capernaum:
When evening came, after the sun had set, they brought to him all those who were sick and demon-possessed.The whole town was assembled at the door, and he healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying. Simon and his companions searched for him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ And he said to them, ‘Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.’ - Mark 1:32-38
Jesus taught his disciples to engage and pray for others to engage:
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two others, and he sent them ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself was about to go. He told them, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves.’ - Luke 10:1-3
Jesus expected his disciples to continue the advance:
‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ - Acts 1:8
Jesus taught not to fear.
Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. - Matthew 10:28
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful. - John 14:27
The Apostles understood the advance of the Kingdom through the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul expected courage with the Gospel:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek - Romans 1:16
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba', Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and coheirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. - Romans 8:15-18
For we walk by faith, not by sight. In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to be pleasing to him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your consciences. - 2 Corinthians 5:7-1
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly. - Philippians 1:12-14
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me his prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. This has now been made evident through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day. - 2 Timothy 1:7-12
The Apostle Peter expected courage with the Gospel:
You have become her children when you do what is good and do not fear any intimidation. -- 1 Peter 3:6
Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame. - 1 Peter 3:13-16
My fear is not that the world will overtake the church. That will never happen! My fear is that we have allowed ourselves to think it could happen and in response we have switched to defense. Even when Peter exhorts to be ready to make a defense, he refers of a proactive response to move the kingdom forward. Christianity, for some, has become more about protecting our way of life then sharing the Gospel of Jesus to our neighbors and the nations. As soon as the church changes posture from offense to defense we lose the power of the Gospel and the goal of grace.
The preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote in the 19th Century:
A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full-grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them, if they would not object, and feel that it was humbling to them, that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he would take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries.
Have we yet learned this lesson?
I could take a few guesses about how the church has made her way to defense, but rather than debating, should we not acknowledge the reality and simply repent? We need to unleash the power of the Gospel! We must believe the promise that the Father desires none should perish but all should come to repentance. We must again believe the promise that Jesus, the King with all authority, is with us until the end of the age as we advance through disciple making.
We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. The world indeed needs change. Our country most definitely needs change, but don't go back to what the Lord did we MUST go forward with what the Lord is doing. Are you ready to walk away from fear and engage in the love of Truth and the Truth in love? If so, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation and transformation.
Jesus never plays defense.
Until there’s #NoPlaceLeft…